Cilantro - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Dinner - Friday, December 30, 2011

After our dinner at Sage, we were very eager to dine at Cilantro as soon as possible, in order to directly compare the two restaurants - was the circle complete? Had the student finally surpassed the master?

As luck would have it, we were able to snag a dinner table on short notice. When we arrived, we were led to their private dining room, which none of us had ever eaten in - it turned out to be quite a pleasant experience, isolated from the general hubbub of the restaurant (of course, one tends to run the risk of being ignored by runners in these spaces). We chose the prix fixe option as the a la carte seasonal specials looked more interesting than the items on their degustation menu.

Amuse - Foie gras terrine, black truffle
Carpaccio of botan ebi and bottarga
Quite interesting. I've only ever eaten bottarga in its grated form, never as large slices - this was the mildest bottarga I've had, but it made sense when paired with the botan ebi. Unfortunately, the poor shrimp was not the finest example of its species in terms of taste and texture - limp and not very sweet.

Warm ocean trout
Asparagus, shiso, seaweed
One of the strongest dishes of the evening - better, in fact, than a similar preparation served at Tetsuya's. The flesh of the slow-poached Tasmanian ocean trout was delectable. It was great with the crisp asparagus and the herbal notes from the tiny shiso buds. The vegetal seaweed dust added the right amount of salinity to keep all the tastes dancing.

Wagyu tartare, egg mollet
A textbook beef tartare, served with egg mollet (i.e. firm white and soft yolk) and crostini. Really good and rich, with nice texture and (very importantly) the correct temperature.

Abalone, aosanori, risotto
This dish turned out to be a disappointment. While the flavour of the abalone and aosanori sauce were terrific, the mollusc itself was slightly overcooked - anyone who has had the misfortune of eating chewy abalone knows this is a mortal sin. Served on the side, the risotto (infused with abalone juice) tasted of the sea, but was too firm to fully enjoy.

Pigeon de Bresse, sauce Périgueux
Excellent - the flesh of the bird from Bresse was nicely gamey and had a surprisingly supple texture, unlike the stringier meat from lesser-quality fowl. The Périgueux sauce and pommes purée were familiar elements from the meal at Sage two days prior, and were just as good (if not better) here.

Crispy sous-vide lamb, Houba miso
Feuilletine of espresso, mascarpone ice cream
Almond crumble, espresso jelly
Green tea soufflé
The meal ended with a competent soufflé served with vanilla ice cream, but it paled in comparison to the superlative rendition we enjoyed at Amber just two weeks before.

I found this meal slightly less enjoyable than the one at Sage because of a number of technical flaws - the shrimp, and more egregiously, the abalone and risotto. Furthermore, we all found the service at Sage superior. That being said, the highs were higher (like the trout and tartare), and Chef Kimura demonstrates more imagination than Sage's Chef Daniel. Certainly, having both restaurants in the city is no detriment to the local scene. Now, who will step forward and wrest the crown from these two kings? I look forward to a changing of the guard, and what it means for Malaysian fine-dining.

Micasa All Suite Hotel
368-B Jalan Tun Razak
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 50400
Phone: (+603) 2179-8082